The author has been described by News Ltd as an "iconoclast", "Svengali", a pollie's "economist muse", and "pungently accurate". Fairfax says he is a "Renaissance man" and "one of Australia’s most respected analysts." Stephen Koukoulas concludes that he is "85% right", and "would make a great Opposition leader." Terry McCrann claims the author thinks "‘nuance’ is a trendy village in the south of France", but can be "scintillating" when he thinks "clearly". The ACTU reckons he’s "an enigma wrapped in a Bloomberg terminal, wrapped in some apparently well-honed abs."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Daily house price data gives unprecedented insights over April/May (charts)

The daily RP Data-Rismark dwelling value index released today tells some interesting stories. The charts enclosed herein all work off the “daily” (as opposed to monthly) data and give us unprecedented insights into the “intra-month” movements in house prices that we’ve never seen before.

My first chart simply portrays the daily changes in the eight capital city “all dwellings” index. We can see that Aussie home values declined by about 1% in January followed by a full recovery over February, March and part of April, as I’d previously discussed here.

On the 15th of April--coincidentally at the same time ANZ announced an out-of-cycle, 15 basis point hike in home loan rates--overall dwelling values commenced a steady slide again to the point where we are actually down about 2% over the year-to-date.

This begs the question as to whether there are any specific markets or seasonal factors driving the overall effect. It is true that the months of May, June and July are seasonally very weak to the tune of about 0.3% per month or nearly 1% cumulatively. However, the May seasonal factor is only about 0.3%, and would not change the directionally downward pulse in values that we have recorded since mid April.

A big explanation for the national weakness since mid April has been a strikingly sharp fall in Melbourne dwelling values, which you can see illustrated as the red line in the next chart below.

As at the end of May, Melbourne dwelling prices are off about 5% this year. But most of this decline has materialised since the middle of April. Specifically, home values in Melbourne have declined by 4.2% since the 15th of April. In contrast, the Sydney housing market, which is denoted by the black line, has rebounded nearly 1% since the second week of May. In seasonally-adjusted terms, this would be an even stronger outcome. Likewise, we can see some recent stabilisation in raw Brisbane dwelling values, which are illustrated by the orange line in the chart above.

Looking through these intra-month movements, which I would reiterate we have never been privy to before, I am relatively sanguine about the outlook. With an incredibly weak supply-side and supportive monetary policy, sentiment should improve as the year passes (barring global economic disasters). We’ve already seen this in the auction clearance rate data, which has tended to be better in 2012 than what we observed in 2011.

The double RBA rate cut in May resulted in an average 37 basis point reduction in lending rates. While there is little doubt that there have been some net valuation adjustments as bidders revise down their expectations of future capital gains, these are being offset by substantially improved rental returns and a much lower cost of debt.

In the owner-occupier market, where rents are not as explicit a part of the investment equation (they are “imputed”), this total return argument may take longer to grip.

But the bottom line is that today you can get 5.83% variable rates and sub-6% three-year fixed rates. Fixed rates may come down even further given the record slump in long-term Australian interest rates. Naturally any additional easing of monetary policy will only improve bidders’ purchasing power.